COBRAS agent Johny Malone of Una plaga de espias is the administrator of a new Flickr group he’s created that collects espionage posters and book covers. There are over 740 images in the image pool so far. These are just some of the Saint covers from the collection. Many thanks to the original posters. I am jealous.
To head over to the gallery, click here.
AKA: Dance of Death
Country: France / Italy
Director: Jacques Nahum
Starring: Felix Marten, Jean Desailly, Michele Mercier, Francoise Brion, Nicole Mirel
Music: Paul Durand
Based on an idea by Leslie Charteris
I am guessing that Paramount did not have the rights to The Saint character in the United States, and when they released this French import (as Dance of Death), all the Saintly accoutrements had to be removed. Even the character’s name is no longer Simon Templar, but Stuart Thomson – and he is no longer a criminal. Instead he is a ‘world famous private detective’. These changes, as small as they may seem, change the whole tone of the film.
As the film begins, on the streets of Boston, the police are chasing notorious gangster ‘Smokey Johnny’. Trying to evade capture he rushes up to the nearest car on the curb and tries to force his way in. The car happens to belong to millionaire Freddy Pellman (Jean Desailly), who is forced back inside. As the police open fire on ‘Smokey’, during the distraction, Pellman produces a golf club and strikes the gangster who is then forced back onto the streets, making him an easier target for the police to pick off. ‘Smokey’ is shot down, and Pellman is applauded for being a hero.
One year later, now living in Paris, Pellman receives a death threat in the mail. Associates of ‘Smokey Johnny’ have tracked him down and want revenge. Pellman refuses to go to the police, and instead hires the services of Stuart Thomson (Felix Marten) – ‘the world famous private detective’. Thomson doesn’t come cheap though, but Pellman is loaded and agrees to Thomson’s exorbitant fee.
The men head back to Pellman’s estate, which is huge –- after all he is a millionaire. There, Thomson is introduced to a coterie of suspicious characters – the chauffeur, the butler, and the cook all have mysterious pasts. Added to this, it appears that Pellman is a bit of a womaniser and has three personal secretaries working for him, Gina (Nicole Mirel), Danny (Michel Mercier), and Nora (Francoise Brion). As you can imagine, any film scenario that sets up three beautiful women working for the same boss, there is going to be some ‘catty’ conflict, and this film doesn’t let you down on that score. The antagonism goes up a notch once Thomson enters the scene.
On Thomson’s first night on the job, Pellman takes his girls, and Thomson tagging along for protection, to a swank nightclub. Here, some associates of the late ‘Smokey Johnny’ attack Pellman, luckily Thomson steps in and gives the goons a good thrashing.
Later that night, back at the estate, someone breaks in, and makes another attempt on Pellman’s life, only they went to the wrong room, and the knife meant for Pellman ended up embedded in the wooden bedhead where Gina was sleeping. With Pellman’s estate, so well guarded and Thomson on the job, it now seems like there is an insider working with Smokey’s associates, and it is now up to Thomson to work out who?
This review is actually based on the US Dance of Death version of the film, and as such, with the film altering of the Saint-like character to be a detective, I’d be very curious to see the French original, where I am sure the Saint’s motivation would be rather different. Still, Dance of Death is a passable time killer with enough twists and turns (and red herrings) to satisfy most mystery fans.
Thanks to Tanner at the Double-O-Section for help with this review.
Starring: Simon Dutton, Vince Edwards, Günther Maria Halmer, Arielle Dombasle, Gérard Hérold, Christoph M. Ohrt, Manfred Lehmann, Donald Arthur, Alexandra Kazan
Music: Günther Fischer
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris
Now this is more like it! So far I haven’t been too impressed with this six tele-movie Saint series. I liked The Brazilian Connection for the rapport between The Saint (Simon Dutton) and Inspector Teal (David Ryall), but the others have been pretty limp. However, Wrong Number is a good one and it is a legitimate spy story to boot.
This episode is set in Berlin in the summer of 1989, just months before the Berlin Wall came down. And in that way, this show is a fascinating time capsule. There is still East and West Berlin, and a small amount of Cold War tension, but really you can tell the stern opposition between the two sides has thawed. Although the ‘wall’ is a prominent part of the story — it acts more as a landmark than a barrier. In fact, there seems to be very little difficulty for Simon Templar to travel from East to West. In fact, that’s how the episode begins, with Templar crossing at a check-point into the American sector.
From there he drives to the Hotel Intercontinental and checks into his usual suite – room 432. Before Templar has even had a chance to unpack the phone rings. The voice on the other end says, ‘You’re blown. Meet me at Conrads,’ and then rings off. Templar is confused and rings down to reception to enquire about the call. The reception girl says that there was no call for him but a call for room 423 — she obviously put the call through to the wrong room.
Templar’s not the type to sit on his hands and he immediately goes to investigate room 423. When he gets there, he finds the door ajar, and the occupant of the room — a Mr. Anton — dead in his bath tub. Templar immediately calls the police.
Templar can’t just leave it at that though. He has to dig deeper and makes his ways to Conrads, which just happens to be a coffee-shop / bar. There he sits, watching and waiting. When Templar begins puffing on a very distinctive white pipe, which happened to belong to Mr. Anton, and which Templar discretely removed from the hotel room, one of the patrons becomes visibly agitated and leaves the coffee shop. Templar follows and a good thing too, as two goons are waiting outside for the contact. They open fire. Templar steers the contact into his car and races off. The goons follow in hot pursuit. Soon, the two cars racing through the streets of Berlin catch the attention of the local police and they too join the pursuit.
The car chase grinds to a halt in a dead-end street. The goons crash and the driver is killed. The second goon manages to escape. Meanwhile the police have Templar and his contact bailed up — that is until the contact, Otto Schmidt (Günther Maria Halmer) reveals himself to be an operative for an organisation called A.T.L.A.S. — which stands for Anti-Terrorism Liaison Agency Service. The police release them.
Herr Schmidt takes Templar to meet the heads of A.T.L.A.S., where he is recruited — or more correctly offers to assist them in their investigations. It appears that a known terrorist Peter Lang is at work in the area and he is in the midst of a major arms deal. Co-incidentally at this time, US General Donovan (Vince Edwards) is innitiating a program whereby US nuclear warheads are transported from West Berlin back to the United States for decommissioning.
Of course I can’t really know how Simon Dutton felt about his stint as the Saint, but to my mind, he was in someways better off than some of the previous actors who played the character. Rather than being studio bound, Dutton got to travel all over the world to make this series — France for The Blue Dulac, Australia for Fear in Fun Park and Germany for this installment, Wrong Number. But by the same token, Dutton didn’t have the safety net of a Saintly seasoned and consistent crew working on each of the movies. Each country seemed to supply its own director, crew and supporting actors, which means the series is wildly uneven. But as I mentioned at the top, this is a good entry in the series — possibly the best, and Dutton gives another likable performance.
Spy-spotters may recognise Vince Edwards as General Donovan. In the sixties, Edwards played super-agent Charles Hood in the polished but disappointing Hammerhead, based on the novel by James Mayo.
If I had to recommend just one of the Simon Dutton Saint series, this would be the one, and that is not just because it has a rather heavy espionage based plot. Wrong Number has the best story and best acting out of the six episodes as well, which makes it a clear winner. It is also interesting watching the last throes of the Cold War play out in their actual locations.